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Geoffrey Kennett SC

Admitted to the bar 1998
Appointed Senior Counsel in 2010
Entitled to practise in all Australian jurisdictions

Areas of Practice:

Administrative Law

Citizenship and Migration
Constitutional Law

Memberships of professional associations:

Australian Association of Constitutional Law
Australian Institute of Administrative Law


Areas of Practice

In private practice as a barrister in Sydney since August 1998. Appointed Senior Counsel in October 2010.

Main areas of practice are in public law, comprising:

  • review of administrative decisions (mainly judicial review proceedings in the federal courts, but sometimes also merits review in administrative tribunals);
  • construction and application of particular statutory regimes; and
  • constitutional law.

In these areas I frequently appear for, and sometimes against, Commonwealth and State departments and agencies. Particular subject areas include migration, taxation, Customs, quarantine, social security, passports, electoral matters and some environmental law.

These areas of practice see me appearing fairly regularly in the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia and in the High Court of Australia. As a junior I regularly appeared alone in the Full Court and in Special Leave applications, and once as leader (with another junior) before a full bench of the High Court.

I also do some general commercial/equity work, and have appeared as junior at appellate level in this and other areas of law.

A list of some significant cases in which I have appeared is attached.

Earlier Career

1997-1998 Counsel Assisting the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth

I was the sole full-time lawyer assisting the Solicitor-General (then Dr Gavan Griffith QC). I appeared regularly as junior counsel in the High Court and intermediate appellate courts and assisted in the preparation of other cases in which the Solicitor-General was involved, and the provision of advice.

1991-1996 Office of General Counsel, Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department

I advised Commonwealth Ministers, Departments and agencies on constitutional issues and on the construction and application of legislation. I occasionally appeared as junior counsel in constitutional cases. In 1993, I spent several months attached to the Secretariat of the Republic Advisory Committee. I was promoted twice within the Office and from the beginning of 1996 held a senior executive level position.

1985-1991 Various junior positions in the Australian Public Service

Including Department of Finance 1985-1989; Senate Committee Office (attached to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs) 1989-1991.


In progress LLM (University of Sydney), commenced 2008 (concentrating on tax subjects)

1993 Master of Public Law (Australian National University)

1988 LLB (Hons) (ANU)

1985 BA (Hons) (ANU)

1980 Higher School Certificate (Canberra Grammar School)


  • Case note - Metal Manufacturers Pty Ltd v Lewis (1989) 63 ALJ 502
  • "Constitutional Interpretation in the Corporations Case" (1990) 19 FL Rev 223 (article)
  • "Individual Rights, the High Court and the Constitution" (1994) 19 MULR 581 (article)
  • "Implied Rights" in Coper and Williams (eds), The Cauldron of Constitutional Change (1997), 89 (conference paper)
  • Contributor to The Laws of Australia, 19.5 Federal Constitutional System, Chapter 3.
  • "Cross-Vesting Cliff-Hanger" (1998) 4 Current Family Law 14 (note)
  • "The Freedom Ride: where to now?" (1998) 9 PLR 111 (article)
  • "Expansion or Contraction: a comment" (1998) 20 Adel LR 153 (comment)
  • "Constitutional Protections against Uncompensated Expropriations of Property" (1998) AMPLA Yearbook 49 (with Gavan Griffith QC) (article)
  • "One Claim, One Limit, One Excess" (1999) 10 Insurance Law Journal 99 (with John Marshall) (article)
  • "Judicial Federalism" in Opeskin and Wheeler (eds), The Australian Federal Judicial System (2000) (with Gavan Griffith QC)
  • "Comment on article by O'Donnell" (2007) 28 Aust Bar Review 342
  • "The Constitution and Military Justice after White v Director of Military Prosecutions" (2008) 36 FL Rev 231 (comment)
  • "Fault lines in the autochthonous expedient: the problem of State tribunals" (2009) 20 PLR 152 (article)
  • Comment on "Taxation by Discretion" (2011) 22 PLR 313


  • Born 22 March 1963 at Guildford (England).
  • Australian Citizen (by registration 1963).
  • Married with two children (born 1995 and 1999).
  • Recreations: cycling, fly fishing, bushwalking.

Significant Cases - High Court

Mutual Pools and Staff Pty Ltd v Commonwealth (1994) 179 CLR 155 (with Dennis Rose QC and Slater QC [constitutional law]

Health Insurance Commission v Peverill (1994) 179 CLR 226 (with Gavan Griffith QC and D J McGill) [constitutional law]

Re DPP; Ex parte Lawler (1994) 179 CLR 270 (with Dennis Rose QC) [constitutional law]

Georgiadis v AOTC (1994) 179 CLR 297 (with Griffith QC and A Robertson) [constitutional law]

Victoria v Commonwealth (Industrial Relations Act case) (1996) 187 CLR 416 (with Griffith QC) [constitutional law]

Lange v ABC (1997) 189 CLR 520 (with Griffith QC and S McLeish) [constitutional law/defamation]

Levy v Victoria (1997) 189 CLR 579 (with Griffith QC and S McLeish) [constitutional law]

Commonwealth v Mewett (1997) 191 CLR 471 (with Griffith QC and Gageler) [constitutional law/choice of law]

Nicholas v R (1998) 193 CLR 173 (with Griffith QC and M Moshinsky) [constitutional law]

A-G (Cth) v Breckler (1999) 197 CLR 83 (with Bennett QC and Henry Burmester QC) [constitutional law]

Re Governor, Goulburn CC; Ex parte Eastman (1999) 200 CLR 322 (with Jackson QC and R Cavanough) [constitutional law]

Airservices Australia v Canadian Airlines (1999) 202 CLR 133 (with Bennett QC and G Witynski) [constitutional law]

Eastman v R (2000) 203 CLR 1 (with Jackson QC) [criminal appeals]

Smith v ANL Ltd (2000) 204 CLR 493 (with Bennett QC) [constitutional law]

Durham Holdings v NSW (2001) 205 CLR 399 (with Bennett QC) [constitutional law]

Pasini v United Mexican States (2002) 209 CLR 496 (with Griffith QC) [constitutional law/extradition]

Frost v Warner (2002) 209 CLR 509 (with Jackson QC) [tort]

Mobil v Victoria (2002) 211 CLR 1 (with Jackson QC) [constitutional law]

Re MIMA; Ex Parte Applicants S134 (2003) 211 CLR 441 (with Bennett QC, Williams SC and S Lloyd) [migration/administrative law]

Plaintiff S157 v Commonwealth (2003) 211 CLR 476 (with Bennett QC, Williams SC and S Lloyd) [migration/administrative law/privative clauses]

Re MIMA; Ex parte Applicant S20/200 (2003) 198 ALR 59 (with Gageler SC) [migration/administrative law]

Re MIMIA; Ex parte Palme (2003) 216 CLR 212 (with Basten QC) [migration/administrative law]

Bayside Council v Telstra (2004) 216 CLR 595 (with Douglas QC and K Connor) [constitutional law]

MIMIA v B (2004) 219 CLR 365 (with Bennett QC) [Family Law Act/parens patriae jurisdiction]

Re Woolley; Ex parte Applicants M276 (2004) 225 CLR 1 (with Bennett QC) [migration/habeas corpus]

Re MIMIA; Ex parte Ame (2005) 222 CLR 439 (with Bennett QC) [citizenship]

NAIS v MIMIA (2005) 228 CLR 470 (with Gageler SC) [migration/administrative law]

Theophanous v Commonwealth (2006) 225 CLR 101 (leading R Niall (Melbourne)) [constitutional law]

NSW v Commonwealth (Work Choices case) (2006) 229 CLR 1 (with P Tate SC, M Bromberg QC, M Moshinsky, S Moore and D Star (all of Melbourne)) [constitutional law]

Bodruddaza v MIMA (with Bennett QC) (2007) 228 CLR 651 [migration/constitutional law]

Bennett v Commonwealth (2007) 231 CLR 91 (with Ellicott QC) [constitutional law (status of Norfolk Island)]

DCT v Broadbeach Properties (2008) 237 CLR 473 (with Williams SC and P Looney (Brisbane)) [taxation]

SZIAI v Minister for Immigration (2009) 259 ALR 429 (with Gageler SC and G Johnson) [migration/administrative law]

Rowe v Electoral Commissioner (2010) 273 ALR 1 (with Gageler SC and D O'Leary) [constitutional law]

MIAC v SZGUR (2011) 241 CLR 594 (with S Lloyd SC) [migration/administrative law]

Plaintiff M70/2011 v MIAC (2011) 244 CLR 144 (with Gageler SC, S Donoghue and N Wood) [migration/statutory interpretation]

Phonographic Performance Co v Commonwealth (2012) 86 ALJR 335 (with A J Meagher SC) [constitutional law/copyright]

Williams v Commonwealth (2012) 86 ALJR 713 (with Gageler SC and S Free) [constitutional law]

Public Service Association of South Australia v Industrial Relations Commission [2012] HCA 25 (with Gageler SC and C Bleby)

Minister for Home Affairs v Zentai (judgment reserved) (leading P Johnston and V Priskich) [extradition]

Significant Cases - Federal Court

Bertran v Minister for Justice (1999) 94 FCR 404 (with Jackson QC) [extradition]

MIMIA v Walsh (2002) 189 ALR 694 (with Bennett QC) [citizenship]

Petrotimor Compahnia de Petroleos v Commonwealth (2003) 126 FCR 354 and 128 FCR 507 (with Douglas QC and C Ward) [act of state/conflict of laws, accrued jurisdiction]

Lobo v MIMIA (2003) 132 FCR 93 [migration/privative clause]

SRYYY v MIMIA (2005) 147 FCR 1 (with Williams SC) [Refugees Convention]

Director of Quarantine v Australian Pork (2005) 146 FCR 368 (with Bennett QC and Gageler SC) [quarantine/administrative law]

LG Electronics v Minister for Justice (2005) 148 FCR 34 (with M Perry QC)

White Industries v AC of T (2007) 160 FCR 298 (with Williams SC) [taxation]

Roche Products v NDPSC (2007) 163 FCR 451 [pharmaceuticals]

SZGME v MIAC (2008) 168 FCR 487 [migration]

SZHKA v MIAC (2008) 172 FCR 1 [migration]

Alphapharm v H Lundbeck [2008] FCA 559 [pharmaceuticals]

Goodridge v Macquarie Bank (2010) 265 ALR 170 and on appeal (2011) 191 FCR 71 (with Rayment QC) [contract]

Tran v Commonwealth [2010] FCAFC 80 (leading J Clark) [forfeiture/statutory construction]

Aye v Minister for Immigration [2010] FCAFC 69 [justiciability/administrative law]

Minister for Home Affairs v Siam Polyethylene [2010] FCAFC 86 (with Robertson SC) [Customs (anti-dumping)]

SZMWQ v Minister for Immigration (2010) 117 ALD 1 [migration]

Kimberly-Clark v Minister for Home Affairs (2011) 193 FCR 15 (with S Lloyd SC) [Customs (anti-dumping)]

Stewart v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation (2011) 194 FCR 194 (with D Fagan SC) [taxation]

SZOQQ v MIAC (2011) 200 FCR 174 [migration/treaty interpretation]

ACCC v MSY Technology [2012] FCAFC 56 [declaratory relief]

Binetter v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2012] FCA 377 [taxation]

Buzzacott v Minister for Sustainability [2012] FCA 403 (leading A Stewart) [environmental law] and [2012] FCA 744 [costs in public interest litigation]

MIAC v Li [2012] FCAFC 74 (with A Wheatley) [migration]

Significant Cases - New South Wales courts

Commonwealth v Griffiths (2007) 70 NSWLR 268 (with Gageler SC) [witness immunity/duty of care]

Gibson v Commissioner of Police [2007] NSWCA 251 (leading B O'Donnell and M Avenell) [implied freedom of communication]

Allianz Australia Insurance v Kerr [2012] NSWCA 13 (leading F Ramsay) [motor accidents/administrative law]

Maronis Holdings v Nippon Credit (2001) 38 ACSR 404 (with Rayment QC and J Marshall) [directors' duties; obligations of solicitors and bankers]


10th Floor Selborne/Wentworth Chambers
180 Phillip Street
Sydney NSW 2000
DX 375 Sydney

Tel No. 02 9221 3933
Fax No. 02 9221 3724
Email kennett@tenthfloor.org

Clerk: Emma Hoolahan
Tel No. 02 9232 4609
Fax No. 02 9221 3724
Email hoolahan@tenthfloor.org


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